“We’ve got a young team next year, I think we’ve got one junior, freshmen and sophomores,” freshmen Jae’Sean Tate said. “Just taking it from our seniors, definitely the guys that played this year are going to have to be leaders with such a young team. Definitely just coming here in Portland just made us all hungry.”
As Tate alluded to, few Buckeyes who wet their appetite in the 2015 NCAA Tournament will be back to have a go at March Madness next season.
Gone for sure will be starters Sam Thompson, Amir Williams and Shannon Scott along with reserves Anthony Lee and Trey McDonald. While those players have exhausted their eligibility, D’Angelo Russell will likely make it four starters departing by declaring for the NBA Draft, though he has yet to make what seems like a forgone conclusion official.
In total, the Buckeyes will have to replace individuals who logged 66.4 percent of Ohio State’s minutes played assuming Russell does not return. That will also mean the departure of 64.9 percent of the team’s scoring.
Tate and sophomore Marc Loving will both be back after playing more than 700 minutes this season. Those are the two leading returning scorers as Loving scored 9.4 points per game as a sophomore while Tate tallied 8.8 a contest.
Kam Williams and Keita Bates-Diop both played significantly less, but will need to elevate their play next season. Joining those players will be a recruiting class that currently checks in as the sixth-best in the country.
“Next year we are going to have a whole new team, a whole new feel,” Tate said. “More athletic and younger I think. Toughness is going to be one thing to work on and with such young guys we’re just going to have to run the system.”
Here is a position by position look at exactly what the Buckeyes will have next season, again, assuming Russell leaves for the NBA.
- Freshman Daniel Giddens: 6-10, 220 pounds, 4-star prospect.
- Sophomore transfer Trevor Thompson: 6-11, 210 pounds, 5.0 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game as freshman at Virginia Tech.
- Redshirt Freshman Dave Bell: 6-10, 225 pounds. 3-star prospect.
This group will have the most new faces next season as all three players who saw time at center this past season have moved on.
These three young players bring a lot of athleticism, but little refined offensive skill. The Buckeyes centers weren’t big scorers this past season, so expect that to hold true next year. Expect Giddens to start with Thompson the first center off the bench.
As the lone returning starter, Tate is a lock to be in the starting lineup again next season. Mitchell is a raw player, but athletic and one that Thad Matta said can be a facilitator from the forward position.
“In terms of Mickey, I’ve loved his game from the first time I saw him,” the coach said. “He’s probably, maybe the best passer I’ve seen in a long time in terms of his vision, in terms of making guys better. He scores.”
Matta has treated the power forward and small forward positions as interchangeable in recent yeares and nothing about next year’s roster should lead to a change in that regard so the following players could easily see time at the four as well.
- Junior Marc Loving: 6-7, 215 pounds, 9.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg.
- Sophomore Keita Bates-Diop: 6-7, 190 pounds, 3.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg.
This will be the most experienced position on the roster next season for Ohio State, but really that’s not saying much.
Loving started at times for the Buckeyes this season, but I expect Bates-Diop to push him for minutes. The pair could also see plenty of time alongside each other as they are two members of the team with the ability to hit from the outside.
In all, the Buckeyes will need points from this position with the serious departures elsewhere.
- RS Sophomore Kam Williams: 6-2, 175 pounds, 5.4 ppg.
- Freshman Austin Grandstaff: 6-5, 190 pounds, 4-star prospect.
While Williams did not live up to the high expectations many had for him entering the season, he did see time in all 35 games for the Buckeyes and seemed to gain the trust of Matta as the season wore on. If the coach elects to go with experience at this position, he is the clear choice.
Grandstaff, however, is the No. 48 recruit in the incoming class and will certainly see the court. He will need to work on his defense, but that isn’t why he was recruited.
“You are looking at a kid who can flat-out shoot the basketball with tremendous range and he’s got size to go with it,” Matta said. “He’s got athleticism to go with it.”
- Freshman JaQuan Lyle: 6-4, 210 pounds, 4-star prospect.
- Freshman A.J. Harris: 5-9, 150 pounds, 4-star prospect.
While the Buckeyes will have to replace all of their centers next season, this is the position of most concern. With Russell and Scott gone, Ohio State will be without any player with college experience who is adept at distributing. In total 500 of the 534 Ohio State assists from this season will not be back next year.
Compensating for that will be a pair of freshman. Lyle is the highest ranked recruit in Ohio State’s class and has the size to play the shooting guard as well as point guard. He is probably better suited to guard college wings than point guards.
Harris is more of a traditional point guard though he is undersized.
The Buckeyes lose a lot from this year’s team making it incredibly difficult to predict how the season will go. Ohio State will need the players who are returning to all elevate their game and for the talented incoming freshman to live up to or exceed their rankings.